October Open Thread

Speak your mind – anything goes.

Suggested topic this month is the obvious one – what’s your first take on the IPCC WG I report and the reactions to it?


  1. I'm thinking of signing up for Prof. David Archer's MOOC over at coursera: "Global Warming: The Science of Climate Change" It's 8 weeks starting Oct. 21.


    It would probably be mostly review for me, but it would be a good opportunity to make sure I've got the basics straight. Has anyone here taken the course? I'm new to this whole MOOC thing in general, so I'm not sure exactly what to expect.

    I know I won't be reading AR5 in it's entirety; I'll probably start with the SPM, then maybe some of the stuff in Chapter 6.

  2. Praises for Senior:

    Now that OHC is at the forefront – a cynic might say that it has become useful now it helps explain recent short-term temperature change – is it not time to recognise that Roger was right? I’m not convinced about the other side of his argument – an overemphasis on CO2 in the policy guides – but, irrespective of your opinion of his political inclinations, it is important to give due respect to someone who argues outside the box, dares to challenge convention and has the courage to be unfashionable.

    I also happen to think that his strongly-held views on deforestation are also highly commendable. This has ceased to be a political issue at the forefront for some time, but it is as big a sustainability and environment issue as ever, and should be further up the political agenda.


    Yes, but the green line.

  3. A blast from the past:

    Wind is God’s way of balancing heat. Wind is the way you shift heat from areas where it’s hotter to areas where it’s cooler. That’s what wind is. Wouldn’t it be ironic if in the interest of global warming we mandated massive switches to energy, which is a finite resource, which slows the winds down, which causes the temperature to go up?


  4. Hi Michael,

    Well, what's on my mind this week, climate-wise? A few glances at SPM, a whirlwind of #RSclimate tweets, the accusations by Stoat and company and by Steve E. abt Judith C., and so on.

    And amidst all that, i have to say that i've thought more than once about your "postnormal" snark, here:

    I get it that PNS can be used to obfuscate.

    Still, the irony is that over at last week's NAS #sackler symposium, Baruch Fischhoff cited Funtowicz / Ravetz in his talk on "Communicating Uncertainty," which starts at 4:17:45 of the Day I feed here:


  5. I think it was originally mt who introduced me to John Ashton, so I was delighted to find more of him today, very soothing to the beleaguered and besieged true skeptic (the kind skeptic of fake skeptics, but powerless to stop their dominance of present day communications amidst a general shutdown of facilities much needed for progress (EPA, NOAA, et al.).

    I've put in a few links over at RealClimate and duplicate them here, being a mite short of time:

    I will hope to be able to find some of the materials from this meeting, which seems quite a galaxy of climate heroes:

    A general overview about John Ashton:

    This is a tremendous indictment of the BBC's embrace of the phony middle:

    Some nice clear English, which is always a pleasure. Quite a relief from Curry/Watts colleagues and fans but a mite metaphysical:

  6. Forgot the WP insert was not allowed here:

    On letters from climate-change deniers

    Simply put, I do my best to keep errors of fact off the letters page; when one does run, a correction is published. Saying "there's no sign humans have caused climate change" is not stating an opinion, it's asserting a factual inaccuracy.


  7. Michael, I appreciated your perspective at Climate etc. on the Wyatt / Curry 'stadium wave' paper (and yours too willard!) - would you consider expanding your comments to give your view of the fuller context of the paper? Or do you know of anyone who has done so already who you trust to give an honest assessment?

  8. Some of my thoughts:

    I have an immediate scepticism, in the improper sense, because of the associations of the authors and I feel cross that I'm feeling guilty about this scepticism. Judith Curry has earnt my scepticism. Marcia Wyatt is publishing with Curry and has been a student of Pielke Sn - is it credible that she is as naive about, or disinterested in, the nature of the debate as her comments try to suggest?

    Curry makes typical grandiose claims about the paper ("This paper will change the way you think about natural internal variability") and uses it for ever-popular IPCC bashing. The comments thread, though better than most, is still heavily populated with lappers up.

    I have neither the time nor the expertise to make a reasonable assessment of the science on its own merits, but it does appear markedly tidy and confident in its predictions about a world with dramatic changes in forcings. Is the stability of this hypothesised structural wave realistic against the backgound of rapid changes?

    What is the magnitude of the effect? The suggstion of a continued 'hiatus' in surface temperatures until 2030 suggest it is larger than appears probable to me. The imposition of a sine wave onto the temperature signal suggest to me that the temepratures should soon return to the longer term trend and then begin to rise above that trend.

    Related to this, the predictions of continued shallow rise in temepratures for two more decades seems to be about as catasptrophic a scenario as possible, given political reality. Presumably come the 2030s the temperatures will start to rise more rapidly again, well above the long-term trend. But the lower rises over the coming decades will encourage complacency. How many people will be using this work to argue for urgent action in anticipation of these future rapid increases in temperatures?

  9. This is not only very disgusting but it is also very relevant to a recent conversation here about the idea that people should be compensated for their online creative output.

    Or at the very least, that others who played no role should NOT be benefiting at the author's expense.

    The attitude of many organizations (biology-online.org included) seems to be that, when asked, scientists and others should actually feel "privileged"to just hand over (with no compensation) the results of their literary efforts. (And that if the author "declines", that somehow makes them a "whore"?)

    This is very reminiscent of the situation with journals/publishers who just expect scientists to give them their papers and then charge the scientists and universities for access to the stuff that the scientists created with their own time and effort (and dime).

    PS The response of Scientific American (with which BiologyOnline is apparently affiliated) in this case is unacceptable.

  10. There's some good work being done on Curry/Wyatt over at Neven's. It's mostly in a forum, being a mite distracting, but worth a look. I'd suspect some real-world debunking is probably available from SkepticalScience and RealClimate as well.


    For those unwilling to sign up for forum access, here's the text, a mite long, from one Werther:

    Re: Wyatt (and Curry's) stadium wave paper ... I did a critique on what this commenter contributed:

    "We found that the stadium-wave signal propagates through four different stages of
    climate regime evolution.

    I sure haven’t read the paper, but I try to imagine what they could mean with a “stadium-wave” as anything physical in the atmosphere to be noticed.

    See, I have spent some hard time working on the pattern of ridges/troughs propagating through the mid-atmosphere last winter. These Rossby-waves are real. But WOE are the ‘stadia’? Something in time? How could they be identified? Like a regime in the atmosphere based on the AMO, the stochastic on and off called PDO or even ENSO? Do the stadia relate to long-range measurements, like on GISS-temp, or mean SLP or anything else?

    IMHO there’s no clear, general oscillation to be picked out of natural variance. It is all stochastic chaos within a variance on geological timescales. The only clear trend is our relentless dump of fossil fuel based carbohydrates into the biosphere.

    Each stage reflects a particular behavior or a particular set of sub-process interactions.

    OK I’m here. It’s not a ‘stadium’, it’s a stage. Not a noticeable period in time showing similar trends, but a particular situation of the physical processes in time and space. Assuming the “stadium-wave signal” scientists ignore our carbon-dump, they fixate on certain combinations of stochastic natural processes.

    And at each stage, activity is heightened in a particular geographic region.

    Right, now I’m picking up an image. So the natural processes add up their positive/negative feedbacks and hey, they’re being positive right here! Where? Maybe FI over Greenland? The preferred ridging through ’07-’12 leading to strong Fram ice loss and GIS melt?

    We’ve no evidence of losses like the ones I mentioned in such a short period for over the last 1400 years. Paleo-climatologic studies haven’t come up with something alike for at least the whole Pleistocene. Oh yeah, the Heinrich – and Dansgaard-Oeschger events? Or the Lake Toba-eruption? Those were temporally sudden events, yes. But I can’t imagine them being triggered by culminating positive feedbacks from cyclic oscillations in the ocean/atmosphere. They are geological catastrophes at the end of clear morphological forcing or plate tectonics.

    600 At all stages, seeds of regime reversal are embedded within the collection of sub-processes
    regulating the Arctic freshwater balance, thereby subtly and incrementally imposing ‘curbs’ on
    the prevailing trend of sea ice coverage, assuring an inevitable regime reversal years in the

    Yes, now we assume a whole set of “all” stages. And they propagate into ‘collections’ of ‘sub-processes’. Boy, I think I can hear Rubik laughing. But hear, something concrete is mentioned: the ‘Arctic freshwater balance’. Sure, ice formation is dependant on that balance. Within all subtlety and incrementality, what would be annoyingly interfering? Oh, it’s us… but we’re so small… all of us could easily be buried in the Grand Canyon…How on earth we could be responsible for derailing creation….

    These negative feedbacks modify the Arctic freshwater balance through:
    i) sea ice related shifts in the Arctic Front and associated zones of precipitation and continental runoff;

    Yeah, it’s the sea ice itself, that has stochastic oscillations that make the Arctic Front shift. It’s all promoted within natural variance… yes, I see how precipitation is influenced. The Ob, the Yenisej, the Lena… they’re all dumping more fresh water now. OMG maybe the permafrost is melting… shrug… happened before. It’s the freshwater balance! And it is a negative feedback! Pretty soon, you’ll see the Siberian Arctic sector producing much more sea ice and cooling it!

    ii) ice-605 cover associated sea-level-pressure changes that reorganize winds and thereby direction of freshwater and sea ice export between the Arctic Basin and marginal seas;

    Oh yeah… it is all balanced out. No worries about ‘incremental’ curbs on trends…it ‘ll pretty soon reverse!

    iii) modified influx of warm, saline water into the marginal seas, particularly in the Atlantic sector;

    Sure. Maybe you read the Arthun UniBergen report on Atlantic heat. At least, here we ‘ve got something real. Make sure it’s incremental.

    iv) and Pacific atmospheric circulation anomalies negatively feeding back onto the Atlantic freshwater balance 609 through remote modification of precipitation regimes."

    Remote? Like Lake Eyre in Australia filling up in ’12 after decades of drought? You’re flattering Dr. Rupert Sheldrake?

    Look here, my knowledge of the physical processes in our biosphere is very limited. There are people much better qualified to make reliable points in this matter. But with what I’ve got, I get a strong sense that we’re being lured into a sort of limitless distraction with properties much like the famous Rubik Cube.
    Keep ‘m busy as long as you can. By the time they get themselves together, we, the Very Important People, will have made nice profit and provided ourselves a nice technological shelter that we can sustain against a wasted Mother Nature.

    Thanks for staying with me; I love some irony every now and then.

    In addition, one Jim Hunt has posted a nice comparison:


    Jim is doing good work publicizing these kinds of issues.

  11. Wholeheartedly agree.

    A hopelessly inadequate response from SciAm has appeared today;


    If there were any truth to this, why did they represent the cancellation of the article otherwise? And why the silence on the unbelievably obnoxious and unprofessional email? Even if there is doubt that the BiologyOnline editor sent it, there is no reason not to lead with deploring it, other than a very deeply confused ethos.

    Very interested to see what Bora Zivkovic will do.

  12. I just found out there's much worse disaster to worry about than climate destabilization and ocean acidification...

    So, Higgs and Englert got the Nobel Prize for the Anderson-Higgs mechanism. (Hi there, Susan!) The Swedish Academy of Sciences forgot about an award to CERN, whose amazing experimentalists found the Higgs boson at a very troubling 125.5 GeV: If the Standard Model is right, this means we are living in a False Vacuum and will inevitably face ultimate ecological catastrophe!

    The possibility that we are living in a false vacuum has never been a cheering one to contemplate. Vacuum decay is the ultimate ecological catastrophe; in the new vacuum there are new constants of nature; after vacuum decay, not only is life as we know it impossible, so is chemistry as we know it. However, one could always draw stoic comfort from the possibility that perhaps in the course of time the new vacuum would sustain, if not life as we know it, at least some structures capable of knowing joy. This possibility has now been eliminated.

    [Sidney Coleman & F. de Luccia, 1980]

  13. Sorry, Martin, but things which destroy the entire universe are off topic here. We are strictly a local, earth-and-neighboring-planets sustainability site. Sorry to be so parochial and narrow, but one has to respect one's limits.

  14. Yes, we were confused about what we wanted. Going to Stockholm might have killed him (and worn me to a frazzle, let alone that I'm not a formal dressy type of gal), but it might have been worth it. However, we were saved the trouble ...

    This is not the first time he's shucked a problem - Josephson was his student ...

  15. I recently came across this review of the evidence on how climate change affects socio-political stability and violent conflict by Hsiang and Burke. I haven't seen it discussed elsewhere, but it looks quite significant to me. Our understanding of how climate change might lead to increased stress and violent social breakdown always seems vulnerable to type 2 errors (?) to me, in that it is hard to imagine how it would be possible to get robust scientific evidence for these impacts. However, this report seems to go some way to achieving this and their conclusions aren't comfortable: "Studies best positioned to make rigorous causal claims overwhelmingly indicate strong linkages between climatic anomalies and conflict and
    social instability."

    These impacts, in my view, are what are most likely to put the 'catastrophic' into anthropogenic climate change, at least for those caught up in the conflict.

    How is it that a report like this can get so little attention?

    (I thought I'd better google the study before posting to see how little attention it actually did get - it seems it came out at a time when I was on holiday so I may have missed some of the discussion. Even so the only mainstream media on the first page was this from the Guardian, which is more an analysis of the methodology than its conclusions - and a reprint of a Spiegel piece from the GWPF, which unsurprisingly talks (ironically?) of 'unusually violent' criticism.)

  16. "Rambler Waves of Brain"
    – by Horatio Algeranon

    Denial is a stadium wave
    Passing through a crowd
    An undulating rant and rave
    Where reason ain’t allowed

    Back and forth and in and out
    Like wheat-fields in the breeze
    Rambler waves without a doubt
    Brain raves if you please

    Warning: "stadium waves" may be hazardous to your health. Take precautions: Always wear a braincoat and avoid the urge to stand/sit (or kneel, like they do in church) just because everyone around you is doing it.

  17. The fate of the 30 greenpeace activists currently imprisoned in Russia is worth mulling. Aside from the awful prospect of that 15 year jail term, it's a little warning light indicating how the major powers may deal with carbon fuel extraction and opposition to it (of any kind). As this Atlantic article says:

    Putin is clear that Arctic oil and gas will form the basis of Russia’s future economic prosperity, and thus Russia wants to send the message that anybody who attempts to interfere in its Arctic activities will feel the full legal and political force of the state.

    All round, we face a bit of an uphill struggle getting this sankey diagram to net zero.

    On climate and social instability - an NMA lyric (song here) springs to mind: "Let dreams flow into savage times. Do you hear the sirens scream across the city? We've had three hot nights in succession - the riot season is here again."

    Hmm. I'm cheery this evening. That song ends "put out the lights on the age of reason"...

  18. Seems this study is popping up all over the place now - there's a message in there about how we perceive evidence, I'm sure.

    Over at wottsupwiththatblog Richard Tol says "There is no known relationship between climate (change) and violent conflict, so that the best impact estimate is zero." and when pointed to this study opines "That paper is a strong contender for the worst climate paper of 2013." I'd rank Tol as one of those towards the 'sceptic' end of the spectrum who warrants being listened to more than most, but his enigmatic one line responses there are typically frustraing.

    Even if there is no empirical evidence, which looks questionable, of a link between climate change and violence is the correct conclusion to draw that 'the best impact estimate' is zero? It seems to me that there are some fairly obvious logical reasons to think that changes in climate will increase social stress and given that there is surely no evidence that these changes won't increase violence is it right to discount this logic?

  19. Another Canadian train explosion, west of Edmonton this time:


    Dozens Flee Homes After Fuel Train Cars Derail, Explode West of Edmonton
    Posted: 19 Oct 2013 09:57 AM PDT
    (CBC News)
    A CN Rail train carrying liquefied petroleum gas and crude oil has derailed and exploded about 80 kilometres west of Edmonton, prompting an evacuation in the tiny community of Gainford.

  20. Disgraceful. But there is good news across the pond: they'll eventually be filling more casks like these -- hat tip Ben Heard -- and

    A price of £92.50 per MWh was agreed as the strike price for the project, meaning the government will top up EDF's income to this level if wholesale prices are lower. EDF will have to pay back to government if market prices are higher.

    If the shale gas story turns out to have some twists, the UK government may well become an electricity rentier.

  21. Your quote of the week seems to have several layers of spiked irony to it:

    The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics, whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities. We need men who can dream of things that never were and ask, why not?

    Or am I reading too much into it?

  22. I think you are probably reading too much into it. I am not trying to be cynical (or sexist for that matter, just quoting accurately). I am trying to back up an effort to revive constructive optimism, as ever.

  23. "The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics, whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities" -- JFK

    "Recreational Reality"

    – Horatio’s (ever so slight) perversification of a Bush aide (thought to be Karl Rove)

    We create our own reality.
    That’s simply what we do
    And while you study, judiciously,
    We’ll act again, create anew
    Other realities, to study too.

    And that’s how things sort out,
    We’re history’s actors…and you,
    All of you, without a doubt,
    Will be left to study what we do,
    And fail to do, on climate too.

  24. Well, actually that's pretty much a word for word transcription, with just a slight rearrangement (as alluded to above)

    "That's not the way the world really works anymore. We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

    Oddly enough, that actually sounds a lot like how physicists talk about the "multiverse" and the "collapse of wave function"

    Only in the case of Rove (and/or whoever said that), I think "multiperverse" and the "collapse of the Rove function" might be more apt.

    As they say, politics is stranger than quantum mechanics.

  25. Interesting article in NYTimes today:


    "Einstein and ‘Where Science and Religion Coexist’"

    ... we take on the question of the compatibility of science and religion, with an excerpt from a Times Opinion piece written by Albert Einstein in 1930; a 2013 report on a conference between scientists and Buddhist monks hosted by the Dalai Lama; and a video in which the theoretical physicist Richard Feynman talks about trying to find answers to life’s big questions while living with doubt.

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